After a fantastic week in the San Francisco area, we slowly made our way south along the coast. Our first stop was at a truly luxurious resort-like campground just south of the city (Costanoa KOA). From there we enjoyed the beach, played lawn games, washed dishes in warm water (a true luxury), and spent a day in Palo Alto having our car serviced while we frolicked around Stanford’s campus. This was my first time seeing Stanford and…wow! What an incredible campus. I felt like I was visiting a cross between a university and a resort. I know there are a few of you Stanford grads reading this blog – what a beautiful place you called home for a few years! This is definitely a place to visit if you’re ever in the area. Unfortunately for us, the museum was closed the day we swung by, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the Rodin Garden. Van especially enjoyed posing with the sculptures.
The theme of our time on the Central California Coast was wildlife. Beautiful, sea-loving wildlife – from human wildlife to feathered and flippered friends. We spent an enjoyable afternoon watching the pelicans soar above the ocean and getting our toes sandy while we watched men and women in wetsuits fly across the water.
We also ambled through the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary, spying the beautiful winged creatures hanging like dead leaves from the branches of eucalyptus trees. It reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s recent novel, Flight Behavior, except not quite that overwhelming.
From Costanoa, we headed south along the coast through Big Sur. Big Sur is the name of a town along the coast, but it’s used more commonly to refer to the entire stretch of coast between Carmel and San Simeon. The views were stunning, but my favorite was the walk to the cliff’s edge to spy a waterfall crashing into the surf below at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. McWay Falls and the horseshoe-shaped cliffs with a beautiful sandy beach tucked into its embrace was paradise. Not a paradise where you can get your toes sandy, but a view of paradise to enjoy from above. There are signs warning you not to climb down the cliff face to the beach below, and I think we’re all better for that.
As beautiful as the views were, the highlight of our day was easily our stop in San Simeon. No, not Hearst Castle (we figured that Van wouldn’t appreciate it and we wouldn’t appreciate his whines on a guided tour), but the elephant seals! We were given good advice to stop and see the seals. While the smell was a little overwhelming at times, it didn’t stop us from spending a long time just watching these awkward creatures sunbathe, play, fight, and amble across the sand to the sea. None of us could get enough of it, but Van was particularly enamored by their antics. Below are a few of the dozens of photos we took while we were captivated.
After we pried ourselves away, we headed down to our lovely little motel in Morro Bay for a couple of days of errands and exploration. Unfortunately, the only decent photo I have of our time there was of Morro Rock, a very large (and very cool) rock erupting from the bay.
And from there we went south. We checked out a few towns along the way, but our main goal was Los Angeles. We spent several nights at a very over-priced and not tent-friendly KOA. I’ll save you the details except to tell you that we were the lucky attendees of two loud and competing concerts, all while in our pjs in the tent. Sigh…
I was excited to visit Los Angeles with Alan and Van since I’ve always been a fan when I’ve visited in the past. Though we had some great times on this visit, I realize that between camping far from any of the things we wanted to do (tent camping in the state parks was either booked solid or insanely priced – $45 to $60, no thank you) and the high level of smog, it was not an ideal visit.
That being said, the highlights were an afternoon in Santa Monica spent with Alan’s college friend, Tyler, and a day full of art at The Getty Center and The Getty Villa. Pro tip: if you’re planning to go to one of these and you have a full day, go to both on the same day. As long as you make reservations in advance to visit the villa (this is required for the villa, not for the center), you only pay for parking once ($15) and the fee is good for both places. There is no entrance fee, so the $15 parking fee is all that is needed to visit these gems.
My favorites at The Getty Center were the architecture, the gardens, and a stunning temporary exhibit of Abelardo Morell’s photographs. From a past visit, just days after it first opened, I remembered that the views were stunning, as well. Alas, the smog got in the way of that during this visit. Van’s highlight was rolling down the hill. Over and over. He was in heaven!
These gorgeous flowers reminded me so much of dancers. Any leads on what type of flowers these are?
My parting observation about Los Angeles: there are a lot of Persians in this city! Given the current exhibition at The Getty Villa (The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia), we weren’t surprised to be in a sea of Persians, but that wasn’t the only place where I noted a high volume of my lovely husband’s kinfolk. Sadly, we didn’t partake in any kebab or ghormeh sabzi while were there. We’ll just have to wait until we get back to Colorado.
Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing them :)! We ended up skipping around LA and Morro Bay when we were in California earlier this year…hopefully we’ll get back out there soon.
**I think those flowers are called Angel Trumpets…they are pretty, aren’t they?
They’re pretty, indeed. Angel Trumpets – what an apt name! LA is definitely harder on the long-term traveler, but the central coast is gorgeous!